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Family Dream

A family reunion worthy of "Oprah"

By DON WARD
Editor


For years, the question has nagged Patricia Hereford.
It's a question any mother would want to have answered: Whatever happened to my son?
Finally, after 31 years and lot of heartache, she knows.
In fact, the two have gone into business together – a move that wouldn't surprise anyone who knows the Hereford family.

Rivercrest Marina Sign

Photo by Don Ward

Rivercrest Marina is a dream project
for Patricia Hereford. But it pales
in comparison to the joy she
experienced after the son shom she
gave up at birth for adoption came
knocking at her door last November.
Now the two have teamed up as
partners on the project.

But the story of how a young, 14-year-old, unwed mother in the late 1960s came to find out years later the identity and fate of her son is quite remarkable.
"It's the kind of thing you'd see on 'Oprah,' " Hereford joked while recalling the events of that initial meeting, which occurred one morning last November when a young man came knocking at her door on Michigan Road in Madison.
One of Hereford's dogs had just torn up a pillow in the garage, and she was busy trying to clean up the mess.
"There were feathers all over the place, and the dogs were going crazy," she recalled. She went to the door, and the man said, "I just want to thank you."
Hereford asked the visitor to wait a minute so she could try and calm the dogs. When she returned to the door, the visitor repeated, "I just want to thank you."
Confused, Hereford asked the man what he was talking about.
"He said, 'Do you remember what you were doing on Feb. 24, 1968?'
"My heart just sank. I said, 'You're my son, aren't you?'
"He said ' Yes I am.'
"I said, 'Oh my God!' I was in shock. You've heard of people's jaw dropping. Well, mine hit the floor.
"I called and told my mom, 'You might want to come over here. I've got someone here I think you'll want to meet.'
"When I told her who it was, I could hear her scream, 'Oh my God, oh my God!'
Jamie Visker stayed the rest of the afternoon and visited with Hereford and her 72-year-old mother, Delsie.
"It was quite a day," Hereford said.
Hereford was a high school freshman when she learned she was pregnant. She considered keeping the child, "but my parents strongly recommended that I give him up for adoption, for the good of the baby and myself," she said.
Her parents sent her to a home for unwed mothers in Terre Haute, Ind. She stayed there about a year before returning to Madison to finish high school.
"The story we told people was that I was going to boarding school in Versailles, Ky.," Hereford recalled. "Because back then, getting pregnant while you were in high school was considered such a horrible thing."
But over the years, Hereford longed to know what had happened to her baby boy. She had often considered submitting her name to the state social services agency. But one friend warned her, what if she finds out the boy was deceased?
Hereford decided she needed to know "for closure," regardless of what she might learn.
So finally, in 1997, she submitted her name.
Meanwhile, Visker, at age 31, was married and living in Plainfield, Ind. He and his wife, Atlanta, were planning to start their own family, and he needed to obtain some biological and medical records. He filled out some forms with the Indiana Children's Bureau but didn't hear anything for three months.
"We went on vacation in New Orleans over Halloween, and when we returned, I had a letter in the mail with Patricia's name and address," Visker recalled. "So one day, I just decided to drive down there and thank her for what she did, because I really had a four-star, Beaver-Cleaver childhood."
Visker admitted his surprise approach was a bit shocking for Patricia, but it was something he felt he had to do.

Particia Hereford

Photo by Don Ward

Patricia Hereford

"She had quite a look of disbelief on her face, but there had to be some relief there when she found out things had worked our for me," he said.
Visker was one of three children adopted by Joe and Nicky Visker before his mother, who thought she was medically unable to have children, became pregnant and gave birth. The Viskers raised their children in Danville, Ind., where, until his recent retirement, Joe worked as an air traffic controller.
After high school, Jamie attended Indiana University, where he earned bachelor's and master's degrees in business administration. Perhaps ironically, he has worked in commercial and industrial development – the perfect experience for joining Hereford as a partner in her new Rivercrest Marina on the Madison riverfront.
"I've always joked with my girlfriend that some day a tall, dark and handsome man is going to come to my door, and it's going to be my son," Hereford said. "Since we've been working together on this marina project, we're really like brother and sister, since we're only 14 years apart."
A few weeks ago, Hereford finally got to meet her son's wife and adoptive parents.
"The father was really excited about it, but Jamie said his mother was very nervous. But you would expect that, especially from a mother," Hereford said.
Hereford invited the couple to visit her in Madison. The Viskers spent the last weeked in March touring the city and the future marina site.
At first, Hereford was hesitant to go public with her story. But when you're one of the most visible business owners in the city, she figured it would be hard to keep it quiet – especially now that her son is her partner.
"When I tell people the story, most of them start crying. Especially the men," Hereford said.
Just wait until Oprah hears this one.

Back to April 1999 Articles.

 

 

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